Dismissal for Poor Performance: Wisconsin

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


The state should articulate that ineffective classroom performance is grounds for dismissal and ensure that the process for terminating ineffective teachers is expedient and fair to all parties.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Wisconsin results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WI-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-10

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

In Wisconsin, tenured teachers who are terminated have one opportunity to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may request a hearing with the governing body of the school system, which must occur within 30 days. The decision of this appeal is final.

Wisconsin does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, nor does the state distinguish the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance from those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation, such as a felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for cancellation, which include "inefficiency or immorality, for willful and persistent violation of reasonable regulations of the governing body of the school system or school or for other good cause."


Recommendations for Wisconsin

Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Euphemistic terms such as "inefficiency" are ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Wisconsin should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so that districts do not feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers. 

Distinguish the process and accompanying due process rights between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
The state is commended for permitting only a single appeal and for ensuring that a conclusion is reached within a reasonable time frame. However, Wisconsin should differentiate between loss of employment and issues with far-reaching consequences that could permanently impact a teacher's right to practice. In addition, the state should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that the State Superintendent convened a Design Team on Educator Effectiveness in 2010, which is charged with developing an evaluation framework that supports a full range of human resource decisions.

Research rationale

One of the greatest shortcomings of teacher performance appraisals has been school systems' unwillingness and inability to differentiate instructional competency. The New Teacher Project, 2009, "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness" at http://widgeteffect.org/

See NCTQ, State of the States: Trends and Early Lessons on Teacher Evaluation and Effectiveness Policies (2011) as well as studies by The New Teacher Project of human resource and dismissal policies in various districts at: http://www.tntp.org/.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steve Brill, "The Rubber Room," New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
Also, see Scott Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1135269736359.pdf.